Christmas in the Cotswolds in Atherton's (Aunt Dimity and the King’s Ransome, 2018, etc.) latest.
The holidays have come to Finch, close to where Americans Lori and Bill Shepherd and their three children live and where Bill runs the British branch of his family’s law firm. Unfortunately, the seasonal festivities are blighted by a virus that’s laid the village low. Lori is thrilled when her healthy group is invited to Christmas dinner at Anscombe Manor, where her best friend, Emma Harris, lives with her husband, Derek, and runs a riding school. The dinner, which includes an Indian sweet recipe Emma found in a handwritten cookbook left by a former owner, is a smashing success. But Emma seems out of sorts, and their friend Bree Pym announces that her fiance has just dumped her. An unexpected ice storm traps them and gives them an extra guest: Miss Matilda Trout, whose car slides into a ditch when she stops to ask for directions. Emma, who’s recently cleared out a room full of junk, is puzzled about the original use of the room, which is windowless with six wall sconces and linenfold wainscoting and is in the oldest part of the house, built by the Mandevilles in the 16th century. Self-effacing Tilly Trout identifies it as a Roman Catholic chapel and suggests that there may be a priest hole as well. Indeed there is, one containing a statue of the Hindu goddess Parvati, numerous jewels, and a large golden heart with the initials C and M. Lacking Christmas festivities to keep them busy, Lori and her friends benefit from Tilly’s expertise on almost every subject as they try to track down the person who made the shrine. Love blooms as both Tilly and Bree find new swains and discover an old love affair.
Atherton's fans can count on the charm of her picture-perfect Cotswold village and the warm Christmas feelings, as long as they don’t expect much of a mystery.